Family's joy at sea tragedy service

PUBLISHED: 14:49 19 February 2009 | UPDATED: 13:05 03 July 2010

THE grandson of a Great Yarmouth seaman killed in a tragedy 100 years ago said he was delighted the accident had been commemorated at a special service - but disappointed the family was not invited.

THE grandson of a Great Yarmouth seaman killed in a tragedy 100 years ago said he was delighted the accident had been commemorated at a special service - but disappointed the family was not invited.

Diver James Crane and five others died while trying to remove wreckage from a sealane off Caister on February 1, 1909.

His grandson John Crane, 77, said: “We were disappointed not to have gone but I am pleased they marked the anniversary.”

And he revealed that the loss at sea had not prevented James Crane's son - and John's father, Reg Crane, from following his father's footsteps and going to sea.

John, of Queens Crescent, Gorleston said: “My father Reg was sent to naval college in London after he left school and followed in his dad's footsteps. He saw action in both world wars and was awarded seven medals for outstanding service. His last rank was skipper.”

Reg was also on board the Ocean Sunlight when she exploded near Newhaven after being involved with the Dunkirk evacuation.

John himself, did attempt

to go to sea, but when in

1947 his first vessel drifted for three days he decided

it wasn't really for him.

A special service at sea was held three weeks ago organised by Trinity House, to mark the loss of the six men from Great Yarmouth and Gorleston who died in the 1909 tragedy.

The catastrophe, which also left 23 children fatherless, plunged the two towns into mourning.

The drama began on the night of January 30, 1909, when the steamer Dundee and a ketch collided in blinding snow blizzards near the Cockle lightship in the narrow channel through Yarmouth Roads, where shipping sheltered in bad weather.

As the part sunken ketch posed a hazard, Trinity House decided to blow it

up and the Trinity House steamer Argus was given the task, reaching the wreck on February 1.

But conditions were too rough for the Argus to send down its diver James Crane to plant explosives, and instead it was decided to lower them on to the wreck and “fire them by electric current,” a dangerous operation, reports later said.

Argus Chief Mate Walter Bound, diver James Crane and five crewmen launched the ship's small boat to reach the site above the ketch and carefully lowered 20lb of explosives.

The small boat retreated to a safe distance and the charge was blown, but it achieved little, so another 30lb was sent down and detonated. Again little happened, so down went a further 30lb charge and the boat moved to a spot alongside the lightship, out of harm's way.

But that final charge was to prove disastrous. Unbeknown to the Trinity House men, the ketch Good Hope's cargo was 12 tons of gelignite and three tons of geloxie. The force of the underwater blast shook the 189ft Argus - and the crews of both it and the Cockle lightship saw the small boat containing their colleagues lifted out of the water and capsizing. As the water settled, all that could be seen was splinters of wood.

Chief Mate Walter Bound, from Southtown, Yarmouth, was the only survivor.

Those who died were: William Forder of Blackfriars Road, Yarmouth; diver James Crane of Pier Place, Yarmouth; William Fleet of Dew's Passage, Albion Road, Yarmouth; William Key of Malakoff Road, Yarmouth; Norwegian Oscar Peterson of Coronation Road, Cobholm; and Alec Roberts of Albermarle Road, Gorleston.

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Great Yarmouth Mercury. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Great Yarmouth Mercury